This post is not supposed to be a critical review of a restaurant. It is my personal feelings towards restaurant hype and a poor experience I had. I’ve been sitting on this post for 6 months, not wanting to post without fully thinking of my experience. A few days ago I posted about the idea of “the best”. Then I came across a recent article about NYT writer Pete Wells’s off night at Roberta’s in Brooklyn. While I have had nothing but good food and service at Roberta’s, I knew how he felt. It seems like there are some restaurants and chefs that are so beloved that nobody shall speak ill of them. Roberta’s probably falls in this category. His article can be found here: http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/01/my-bumpy-night-at-robertas/
I had a similar experience at Husk in Charleston, SC this past summer. Husk is the new restaurant by chef Sean Brock, a chef that I truly admire. When my wife and I were planning our trip, Husk was the first restaurant that I made reservations at. I’ve admired chef Brock for a while and was excited to see what this restaurant was all about. The week after I made the reservation, Bon Appetit magazine named Husk the “Best New Restaurant in America”. I’m still not sure exactly what the criteria for this is, but that isn’t really important. I’ve said before that “the best” is subjective. I was just glad I had locked down a reservation. http://www.bonappetit.com/blogsandforums/blogs/bafoodist/2011/08/best-new-restaurants.html
I will come out and say that most of the food that we had was great. But I’ve had a lot of great food. What makes this restaurant “the best”? At some point, service plays a part, especially when a meal for two is going to run you over a hundred dollars. What we ended up with was quite possibly the worst service we have ever had, and not just because we had high expectations. That evening we each had a cocktail and glass of water, neither of which were refilled the whole evening. My wife was brought her dinner, yet no fork to eat it with. My dessert had ice cream as part of the dish, which was mostly melted by the time it got to our table. My wife ordered coffee with her dessert, but it never came. When we were done with dessert, we informed the server of this who didn’t seem to care either way. Our water was refilled as we were paying the bill.
Maybe it was an off night. What I do know is that Mr Bill Murray was sitting at the table next to us, sharing our server. Except that he had multiple servers fawning over him, making sure all entrees were being dropped at the exact same moment. Hey, can we get some water over here? Complimentary bacon beignets? I’d just like some silverware. I know that there are VIPs. I have them too. But we had absolutely horrendous service and the FOH manager didn’t seem to notice and our server didn’t seem to care.
What I’ve found in the months following this experience is that there are some chefs who you don’t speak ill of. Whenever I’m speaking with chefs and people interested in food, there seems to be genuine disbelief that this could happen at Husk. The restaurant even maintains an overall 4 star rating on the snark-fest known as Yelp http://www.yelp.com/biz/husk-charleston
What I did that night was go back to my hotel and email the general manager. I didn’t go online and post a bad review or make any comments on Twitter. I just wanted to let them know of my experience. I did receive an apology from the restauant manager.
I guess that I just needed to get this off my chest because I still get irritated when I hear people raving about Husk. I just don’t get it. The next night we went to Brock’s McCrady’s and had what was the best meal of our trip. That meal goes down as one of the best I had last year. The service was impeccable. It was a night and day experience. Maybe this has never happened to anyone else at Husk, but you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.
I want to leave this on some positive notes. I still think Sean Brock is an amazing chef and I support what he’s doing at his restaurants. I just bought the book Notes From a Kitchen. It is a great book, much of which focuses on chef Brock, his restaurants and his creative process. You should buy it. I will also gladly revisit McCrady’s.
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